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 Description of the fishery:...
 Literature cited
 Tables






Group Title: Technical paper -- Florida Sea Grant College Program ; no. 37
Title: Status of the Florida soft crab industry
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00075988/00001
 Material Information
Title: Status of the Florida soft crab industry
Series Title: Technical paper Florida Sea Grant College
Physical Description: 9 p. : map ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Andree, Scott
Florida Sea Grant College
Publisher: Sea Grant Extension Program
Place of Publication: Gainesville Fla
Publication Date: 1985
 Subjects
Subject: Blue crab industry -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Crab fisheries -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Notes
Bibliography: Bibliography: p. 5.
Statement of Responsibility: Scott Andree.
General Note: Grant NA80AA-D-00038.
Funding: This collection includes items related to Florida’s environments, ecosystems, and species. It includes the subcollections of Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit project documents, the Florida Sea Grant technical series, the Florida Geological Survey series, the Howard T. Odum Center for Wetland technical reports, and other entities devoted to the study and preservation of Florida's natural resources.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00075988
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida
Resource Identifier: oclc - 17445024

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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Title Page
    Reprint information
        Unnumbered ( 3 )
    Historical production and value
        Page 1
    Sea Grant Extension activities
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Description of the fishery: a survey
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
    Literature cited
        Page 5
    Tables
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
Full Text
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7P-37
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HUMA LIBRARY
APR 11 198


STATUS OF THE FLORID

SOFT CRAB INDUSTRY


by
Scott Andree


FLORIDA SEA GRANT COLLEGE


Technical Paper No. 37


TP-37











STATUS OF THE FLORIDA SOFT CRAB FISHERY


Scott Andree


Sea Grant Extension Agent
Sea Grant Extension Program
Perry, Florida










Project No. SGEP-8
Grant No. NA80AA-D-00038





Technical Papers are duplicated in limited quantities for specialized
audiences requiring rapid access to information and may receive only
limited editing. This paper was compiled by the Florida Sea Grant College
with support from NOAA Office of Sea Grant, U.S. Department of Commerce,
grant number NA80AA-D-00038. It was published by the Sea Grant Extension
Program which functions as a component of the Florida Cooperative Extension
Service, John T. Woeste, Dean, in conducting Cooperative Extension work in
Agriculture, Home Economics, and marine Sciences, State of Florida, U.S.
Department of Commerce, and Boards of County Commissioners, cooperating.
Printed and distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and
June 14, 1914. The Florida Sea Grant College is an Equal
Employment-Affirmative Action employer authorized to provide research,
educational information and other services only to individuals and
institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, or national
origin.





TECHNICAL PAPER NO. 37
September 1985






















































Reprinted from the proceedings (in print) of the National Symposium on the
Soft-shell Blue Crab Fishery, Biloxi, Mississippi, February 12-13, 1985.
Sponsored by the Southeast Marine Advisory Services Network and the Sea
Grant Mid-Atlantic Advisory Services Network. For further information on
the proceedings, contact Harriet Terry, Editor, Gulf Coast Research
Laboratory, Ocean Springs, MS 39564. (601) 875-2244.












STATUS OF THE FLORIDA SOFT CRAB FISHERY


HISTORICAL PRODUCTION AND VALUE


The Florida soft crab fishery is relatively young when compared to
the Chesapeake Bay fishery. Soft-shell blue crab production had been
attempted many times in Florida, but few operations were successful and
virtually none continued for more than a couple of years. A true
commercial fishery for soft crabs didn't begin until the mid-1950's
following an experimental shedding project at Punta Gorda, Florida in 1953
(Young, 1955). However, commercial operations in Florida did not generate
any significant production until the 1960's. At that time, shedding
operations were centered in southwest Florida (Charlotte Harbor) and the
Panhandle (Apalachicola Bay).

Historically, production has varied drastically from year to year
with an extreme slump period from 1968-1977 (Table 1). Since 1978, there
has been a marked increase in production, with a record of 53,567 pounds
reported in 1982 (NMFS statistics). Production averages for the 1960's,
70's and 80's were 5,169, 3,645 and 30,863 pounds/year, respectively.

During the period from 1960 to 1982, exvessel price averaged 65
cents/pound (Table 1). However, in 1983 the exvessel price jumped to
$2.22/lb., with a small decline in production. This trend continued into
1984. The total exvessel value of this fishery in 1983 was reported to be
nearly 80,000 dollars (NMFS statistics). Unfortunately, the reported
exvessel value combines the price paid to crabbers for premolt (peeler)
crabs as well as the price received by those crabbers that produce the
actual soft crab product before selling. For that reason, the inflated
price per pound in recent years may only reflect that more crabbers are
shedding crabs before selling them.


SEA GRANT EXTENSION ACTIVITIES

Florida Sea Grant involvement with the soft crab fishery began in
1978 with basic advisory service consultations and an intensive review of
the literature and fishery as it existed nationwide (Otwell and Cato,
1982). Early clientele interest was focused primarily in the St. John's
River (NE Florida) and Crystal River (central gulf coast) areas. This
interest initiated a demonstration shedding project at Palatka, Florida
using floats in the St. John's River during 1979. The demonstration
project culminated in several publications and fact sheets (Otwell, 1980;
Otwell et al, 1980; Otwell et al, 1981), which were disseminated during a
series of workshops held around the state from 1980 to 1983. These
workshops (fourteen total) were held in the major blue crab producing












STATUS OF THE FLORIDA SOFT CRAB FISHERY


HISTORICAL PRODUCTION AND VALUE


The Florida soft crab fishery is relatively young when compared to
the Chesapeake Bay fishery. Soft-shell blue crab production had been
attempted many times in Florida, but few operations were successful and
virtually none continued for more than a couple of years. A true
commercial fishery for soft crabs didn't begin until the mid-1950's
following an experimental shedding project at Punta Gorda, Florida in 1953
(Young, 1955). However, commercial operations in Florida did not generate
any significant production until the 1960's. At that time, shedding
operations were centered in southwest Florida (Charlotte Harbor) and the
Panhandle (Apalachicola Bay).

Historically, production has varied drastically from year to year
with an extreme slump period from 1968-1977 (Table 1). Since 1978, there
has been a marked increase in production, with a record of 53,567 pounds
reported in 1982 (NMFS statistics). Production averages for the 1960's,
70's and 80's were 5,169, 3,645 and 30,863 pounds/year, respectively.

During the period from 1960 to 1982, exvessel price averaged 65
cents/pound (Table 1). However, in 1983 the exvessel price jumped to
$2.22/lb., with a small decline in production. This trend continued into
1984. The total exvessel value of this fishery in 1983 was reported to be
nearly 80,000 dollars (NMFS statistics). Unfortunately, the reported
exvessel value combines the price paid to crabbers for premolt (peeler)
crabs as well as the price received by those crabbers that produce the
actual soft crab product before selling. For that reason, the inflated
price per pound in recent years may only reflect that more crabbers are
shedding crabs before selling them.


SEA GRANT EXTENSION ACTIVITIES

Florida Sea Grant involvement with the soft crab fishery began in
1978 with basic advisory service consultations and an intensive review of
the literature and fishery as it existed nationwide (Otwell and Cato,
1982). Early clientele interest was focused primarily in the St. John's
River (NE Florida) and Crystal River (central gulf coast) areas. This
interest initiated a demonstration shedding project at Palatka, Florida
using floats in the St. John's River during 1979. The demonstration
project culminated in several publications and fact sheets (Otwell, 1980;
Otwell et al, 1980; Otwell et al, 1981), which were disseminated during a
series of workshops held around the state from 1980 to 1983. These
workshops (fourteen total) were held in the major blue crab producing










areas, including Apalachicola, Cross City, Crystal River, Punta Gorda,
Palatka, and Fernindina Beach, reaching more than 400 interested persons.
The number of soft crab shedding operations jumped markedly from a half
dozen in 1978 to near thirty by the end of 1982, resulting in the
corresponding increase in production as previously denoted. By 1983,
Florida had become fifth nationwide in reported production of soft crabs
(Table 2).

With the increased interest in soft crabs in Florida, several
problem areas became evident that required further attention, particularly
shedding mortality and peeler harvest. To address the mortality issues a
closed system demonstration project was started in 1983 at Punta Gorda,
Florida. Technology utilized in other states, particularly protein
skimmers and biological filters, were incorporated to improve water quality
in the shedding tanks, thereby decreasing shedding mortality. Preliminary
results have been very encouraging and a Sea Grant report will be
forthcoming. Consistent supply of peeler crabs has also been a constant
problem for this fishery in Florida, and a peeler pound (or bank trap)
demonstration project was initiated in 1984 near Ft. Myers to adapt this
type of gear to Florida gulf coast habitats. Trap designs were patterned
after those used in the Chesapeake Bay fishery, with modifications made to
suit the extremely shallow slopes of the estuaries of southwest Florida.
This project is still ongoing with a report expected by the end of 1985.

In addition to the demonstration projects, questions concerning the
nutritional and microbial attributes of fresh soft crabs were examined,
particularly in relation to shelflife and handling requirements (Otwell and
Koburger, 1985).

DESCRIPTION OF THE FISHERY: A SURVEY

Florida Sea Grant, having been involved in the development of the
Florida soft crab fishery since 1978, decided that an evaluation of the
status of this fishery was necessary to determine to what extent Sea Grant
Extension activities would be needed to further its development. To that
end, this author, in cooperation with Florida Sea Grant marine extension
agents and specialists, conducted a survey of the 1983 soft crab producers.
Out of 28 identified blue crab shedding operations known to be producing
soft shell crabs in 1983, 22 (78.6%) cooperated in filling out a fishery
questionnaire which included sections describing their shedding facility,
harvest methods, product types, production and sales data, and production
costs. The remainder of this paper will be the findings of that survey.


Shedding operations:

Being a relatively young fishery, the experience level of the
Florida producers was fairly low as seen in the average number of years in
business (3.75 years). Approximately three persons operate an average
shedding facility in Florida and use about










areas, including Apalachicola, Cross City, Crystal River, Punta Gorda,
Palatka, and Fernindina Beach, reaching more than 400 interested persons.
The number of soft crab shedding operations jumped markedly from a half
dozen in 1978 to near thirty by the end of 1982, resulting in the
corresponding increase in production as previously denoted. By 1983,
Florida had become fifth nationwide in reported production of soft crabs
(Table 2).

With the increased interest in soft crabs in Florida, several
problem areas became evident that required further attention, particularly
shedding mortality and peeler harvest. To address the mortality issues a
closed system demonstration project was started in 1983 at Punta Gorda,
Florida. Technology utilized in other states, particularly protein
skimmers and biological filters, were incorporated to improve water quality
in the shedding tanks, thereby decreasing shedding mortality. Preliminary
results have been very encouraging and a Sea Grant report will be
forthcoming. Consistent supply of peeler crabs has also been a constant
problem for this fishery in Florida, and a peeler pound (or bank trap)
demonstration project was initiated in 1984 near Ft. Myers to adapt this
type of gear to Florida gulf coast habitats. Trap designs were patterned
after those used in the Chesapeake Bay fishery, with modifications made to
suit the extremely shallow slopes of the estuaries of southwest Florida.
This project is still ongoing with a report expected by the end of 1985.

In addition to the demonstration projects, questions concerning the
nutritional and microbial attributes of fresh soft crabs were examined,
particularly in relation to shelflife and handling requirements (Otwell and
Koburger, 1985).

DESCRIPTION OF THE FISHERY: A SURVEY

Florida Sea Grant, having been involved in the development of the
Florida soft crab fishery since 1978, decided that an evaluation of the
status of this fishery was necessary to determine to what extent Sea Grant
Extension activities would be needed to further its development. To that
end, this author, in cooperation with Florida Sea Grant marine extension
agents and specialists, conducted a survey of the 1983 soft crab producers.
Out of 28 identified blue crab shedding operations known to be producing
soft shell crabs in 1983, 22 (78.6%) cooperated in filling out a fishery
questionnaire which included sections describing their shedding facility,
harvest methods, product types, production and sales data, and production
costs. The remainder of this paper will be the findings of that survey.


Shedding operations:

Being a relatively young fishery, the experience level of the
Florida producers was fairly low as seen in the average number of years in
business (3.75 years). Approximately three persons operate an average
shedding facility in Florida and use about












sixteen wooden table tanks (4'x8'x8" box on legs) to hold their pre-molt
crabs (peelers) to await their molt (shedding). Only two shedders
interviewed utilized anything other than table tanks, that being cement
tanks of varying dimensions. These were not preferred due their expense
in manufacturing and the difficulty experienced in sorting crabs from such
systems.

The type of water flow systems utilized are almost equally
distributed among open, flow through systems (36.4%), completely closed,
recirculating, systems (31.8%), and semi-closed systems (31.8%). The latter
of which are open systems modified to act as a closed system for short
periods of time.

Filter systems ranged from none (19%) to high tech bio-disk filters
with protein skimmers. The most common filter was simply same form of
physical filtration (screens, foam rubber, spun glass, etc. 66.7%),
followed by biological filtration (47.6%). Generally, physical and
biological filters were combined (47.6%). Other forms of filtration used
were protein skimmers (9.5%) and algal filters (9.5%).

Harvest methods:

In general, 3-4 crabbers supplied peeler crabs to each shedding
facility (mean = 3.45). Florida's peeler crab fishery has remained
primarily a nondirected fishery, with 85% of the soft crab operations
acquiring some, or all, of their peelers incidental to traditional blue
crab catch, using standard blue crab traps. However, many crabbers were
beginning to use directed gear, such as peeler traps (baited with large
male crabs (jimmies) or unbaited) and peeler pounds (bank traps). It was
common to find a combination of trapping methods being used (70% of the
operations), since most producers had trouble getting enough peelers to
shed and needed to acquire them in as many ways as possible. In most
cases, the operations that produced soft crabs consistently were ones in
which the operator directly fished for peeler crabs.

The season for peeler crab harvest in Florida, as in other states,
is controlled by environmental and biological parameters rather than by
regulation. It generally begins by mid-March, with a 4 to 6 week peak in
April and May. A summer lull period occurs in July and August, followed by
a short fall peak in September. One soft crab shedding facility did
continue operations throughout the year in 1983, but most shut down by the
end of October.

Product types:

Six size grades of soft crabs are produced in Florida. Almost
eighty percent of the product is in the largest two size classes, whales
and jumbos (Table 2). The other grades are primes, hotels, mediums and
smalls.











The bulk of Florida's soft crabs were marketed frozen (93%). The
remaining fresh product (7%) was marketed early in the season prior to the
onset of the Chesapeake run (generally by mid-May) and/or to local
restuarants and retail seafood markets.


Production:

The majority of the soft crabs were produced on the west coast of
Florida, with the Big Bend region from Apalachicola to Cedar Key accounting
for 45.4% of the 1983 production (48,070 lbs.- Figure 1). Based on the
survey results, the total soft crab production in Florida for 1983 was
105,969 pounds. This value is almost three times the reported production of
35,908 pounds, according to National Marine Fisheries Service statistics
(Table 3). This was expected since a large percentage of Florida's
production is from small-scale backyard operations run by individual
crabbers. These operations are difficult to identify and obtain data from
by NMFS port agents. Nevertheless, the survey results do indicate that the
soft crab fishery in Florida is much larger than previously estimated.


Economics:

Soft crabs are sold by the dozen in Florida, as is the case in most
states. Prices received per dozen varied throughout the year, depending
upon supply and size. Average price per dozen ranged from $7.00/dozen for
smalls to a high of $24.00/dozen for whales. Taking into account the
number of dozen produced in each size class, the average price per dozen
received overall was $13.93 (approximately $4.64/lb.), with total Florida
sales at the wholesale level reaching nearly $476,000 in 1983.

The major expenditure for each shedding firm was the price paid to
crabbers for each individual peeler crab. This varied from a flat rate
price to a graded price based upon rank of the peeler crab (i.e., white,
pink, red). The average price across all ranks was $0.31 per crab.

Expenditures to operate the facility included rent or mortgage,
electricity, labor, supplies and miscellaneous. These expenses averaged
$275.00 per month.


Future Development Needs:

Three areas of need were commonly pointed out by soft crab
producers during the survey. These were: 1) maintaining a consistent
supply of peelers, 2) reducing shedding mortality and 3) improving
marketing. As stated earlier, Florida Sea Grant has begun to address
mortality and peeler supply issues, although published information is not
yet available. Technology and information from other soft crab producing
states has been distributed to producers upon request or during individual











consultations to assist them with problems of these kinds. Concerning
marketing, Florida Sea Grant has not taken an active role, leaving this
area up to the industry itself and the Florida Department of Natural
Resources, Bureau of Marketing and Extension. However, to educate
potential buyers as to where soft crabs can be found in Florida, a soft
crab producers list for Florida has been produced since 1982 and is
available from the Florida Sea Grant Extension Program.

Future Sea Grant involvement in this fishery will be devoted to
mainly to advisory services and individual consultations to improve
efficiency of the already existing operations and encourage directed effort
to the harvest of peeler crabs. Any future workshops would be focused on
these specific topics. In addition, a possible in-depth economic analysis
of this fishery has been discussed as a future project.


LITERATURE CITED

Otweli, W. Steven. 1980. Harvest and identification of peeler crabs.
Florida Sea Grant Publication, MAFS 26, 4 pp.

Otwell, W. Steven, James C. Cato and Joseph G. Halusky. 1980. Develop-
ment of a soft crab fishery in Florida. Florida Sea Grant Report
No. 31, 55 pp.

Otwell, W. Steven, John Stevely and Don Sweat. 1981. Fish facts for
Florida consumers: Soft Crab. Florida Sea Grant Publication,
MAFS 33, 6 pp.

Otwell, W. Steven and James C. Cato. 1982. Review of the soft-shell
crab fishery in the United States. IN: Proceedings of the Blue
Crab Colloquium, Oct. 18-19, 1979. Gulf States Marine Fisheries
Ccpmission, Ocean Springs, MS. 7: 129-136.

Otwell, W. Steven and Jack Koburger. 1985. Nutritional and microbial
attributes of soft crabs. IN: Proceedings of the National Soft
Crab Symposium, Feb. 12-13, 1985, Biloxi, MS.

Young, R. H. 1955. How to set up a soft crab plant in Florida. Univ.
Miami Special Service Bull., No. 11, 5 pp.











consultations to assist them with problems of these kinds. Concerning
marketing, Florida Sea Grant has not taken an active role, leaving this
area up to the industry itself and the Florida Department of Natural
Resources, Bureau of Marketing and Extension. However, to educate
potential buyers as to where soft crabs can be found in Florida, a soft
crab producers list for Florida has been produced since 1982 and is
available from the Florida Sea Grant Extension Program.

Future Sea Grant involvement in this fishery will be devoted to
mainly to advisory services and individual consultations to improve
efficiency of the already existing operations and encourage directed effort
to the harvest of peeler crabs. Any future workshops would be focused on
these specific topics. In addition, a possible in-depth economic analysis
of this fishery has been discussed as a future project.


LITERATURE CITED

Otweli, W. Steven. 1980. Harvest and identification of peeler crabs.
Florida Sea Grant Publication, MAFS 26, 4 pp.

Otwell, W. Steven, James C. Cato and Joseph G. Halusky. 1980. Develop-
ment of a soft crab fishery in Florida. Florida Sea Grant Report
No. 31, 55 pp.

Otwell, W. Steven, John Stevely and Don Sweat. 1981. Fish facts for
Florida consumers: Soft Crab. Florida Sea Grant Publication,
MAFS 33, 6 pp.

Otwell, W. Steven and James C. Cato. 1982. Review of the soft-shell
crab fishery in the United States. IN: Proceedings of the Blue
Crab Colloquium, Oct. 18-19, 1979. Gulf States Marine Fisheries
Ccpmission, Ocean Springs, MS. 7: 129-136.

Otwell, W. Steven and Jack Koburger. 1985. Nutritional and microbial
attributes of soft crabs. IN: Proceedings of the National Soft
Crab Symposium, Feb. 12-13, 1985, Biloxi, MS.

Young, R. H. 1955. How to set up a soft crab plant in Florida. Univ.
Miami Special Service Bull., No. 11, 5 pp.









Table 1


TOTAL ANNUAL LANDINGS AND VALUE OF SOFT
BLUE CRABS IN FLORIDA, 1960 1984


Total Pounds
sheddedd)


4,550
5,511
375
4,200
15,063
12,643
1,030
7,487
325
504


Total Value ($)
(exvessel)


2,275
2,756
188
2,100
7,230
9,229
288
4,717
130
186


Value/Pound ($)
(exvessel)*


.50
.50
.50
.50
.48
.73
.28
.63
.40
.37


Ten year average:

1970
1971
1972
1973
1974
1975
1976
1977
1978
1979

Ten year average:

1980
1981
1982
1983
1984**

Five year average:


5,169

451
35
152
0
281
2,106
235
205
23,659
9,328

3,645

16,866
22,631
53,567
35,908
25,343

30,863


2,910

248
14
147

169
1,664
193
242
28,368
5,031

3,608

12,228
14,530
51,741
79,878
70,070

45,689


.49


.55
.40
.97

.60
.79
.82
1.18
1.20
.54


.71


.73
.64
.97
2.22
2.76

1.46


* Value computed from reported total value data.

t* Estimated from partial NMFS statistics.


Source: National Marine Fisheries Service, Statistical Department,
Southeast Fisheries Center, Miami, FL.


Year


1960
1961
1962
1963
1964
1965
1966
1967
1968
1969











Table 2


FLORIDA SOFT CRAB FISHERY


Whales:
Jumbos:
Primes:
Hotels:
Mediums:
Smalls:

Fresh:
Frozen:


Product Types

( 5.5*)
(5,0 5,5)
(4.5 5,0)
(4.0 4,5)
(3.5 4.0)
( 3.5)


- 1983


44.0%
34.5
11.6
2.5
7.0
0.3


7,0 %


93,0


*Inches carapace width; size ranges
subject to change depending on
marketing areas.









Table 3

REPORTED U.S. SOFT CRAB PRODUCTION 1983


STATE


POUNDS (%)


MARYLAND
VIRGINIA
LOUISIANA
NORTH CAROLINA
FLORIDA
GEORGIA
SOUTH CAROLINA
AL, MS, TX, DE
TOTAL


3,525,591
657,847
101,497
87,570
35,908
11,251
3,691
0

4,423,355


(79.7)
(14.9)
(2.3)
(2.0)
(0,8)
(0.3)
(0.1)














Figure 1: FLORIDA SOFT CRAB PRODUCTION 1983


\ |, 1; 1-- ,- ..... ..

"'i.' 'r L* : -,;d t f .
,' __ J _; OUN"
~- -. l i s
*f & r IN


2,5 %

45,4 %














REGION POUNDS

PANHANDLE 2,664


BIG BEND


CENTRAL GULF


SOUTHWEST

SOUTHEAST

NORTHEAST


TOTAL


48,070

21,930

20,070

105

13,130


105,969


- -..-........ I AU
-- .. bS j" '". A"O

^^\ -
IVLO I SULIWA t SUM I .. V.




i VV -
,ANION
CIRS / -,


4%


r VOLtIS/


A. AKE



.... r -. i .
Nism n '*.0-j ''


-t ---*- '[iim*nnu.'
MNff I N~ t 'tMd I


20.7


18.9 %




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